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The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are implementing a collaborative applied research project entitled the Yetu Initiative, which launched in 2014. Yetu posits that development outcomes are best achieved when citizens lead in addressing their own needs and mobilizing their own resources—financial, civic, social, human, political, and intellectual. This practice of “community philanthropy” enhances local ownership and empowerment, strengthens connections between communities and organizations that represent them, reduces donor dependency, and creates greater impact.
While the context in Kenya was ripe for community philanthropy, an approach to foster this at a national scale was new. As such, approaches and tools used to foster this environment needed to be piloted and adapted for the context as the program progressed. Moreover, USAID and AKF wanted to ensure that Yetu's efforts were solidly informed by existing research and learning on what worked in other contexts to strengthen philanthropy ecosystems and local asset mobilization, as well as contribute to that lesson base globally. Moreover, collaborations within and beyond civil society organizations are critical to the approach.
A story that illustrates how collaboration, learning, and adapting have been central to Yetu's capacity building approach and enhanced its results is the shift from a grants-based approach with intensive one-on-one support to a peer-learning based model that does not rely on grants. Overall, Yetu has been successful in achieving its objectives. This was amplified by the shift to a new capacity building model.